During the months of January and February, I paid loose attention to the news. I heard about a virus in China and assumed it was like the viral outbreaks we’ve seen in the past, like MERS, SARS, and Ebola. All of them had little effect on my day-to-day life outside of praying for those affected and following the news reports.
By the first week of March, I realized that COVID-19 was something different. Friends reached out asking me if I heard about coronavirus and the havoc it caused in China and now other parts of the world. Like many of us, I thought, “Sure, but it’s not that big of a deal though. It’ll pass.” Except it was a big deal, and I had no idea it would become a global pandemic of this proportion. I hadn’t kept up with all the warnings and updates. I was in my own world, preparing for the release of my ninth album, getting final features from A-list artists, planning a book tour, and engrossed in my own ecosystem.
All the planning and strategy drastically changed overnight! It started off slow for me. First a friend in Seattle texted saying things were crazy up there. We had a couple discussions in the studio about it; I read a headline or two about how quickly it was spreading in Italy.
Then it hit home! A festival I was performing at out West was canceled! My business manager called and cautioned me not to panic. Panic? Wait, what is going on?! What planet is this?!
Now tuned in, the next few days we all received constant updates, increasing our anxiety. Our kids’ school closed, two months of shows were canceled, and I was trying to calm scared family members. My 92-year-old grandmother is reorganizing her life so she can keep it.
At first, it overwhelmed me! It was too much to deal with. Then I stopped and prayed. It was time to embrace a new normal. For my family, for myself, and my team at Reach Records, I had to be calm and focused. I had to commit my faith completely to God and rely on my spiritual foundation to make clear decisions.
It occurred to me that if there is ever a time people needed hope and encouragement, this was that time. It was like a light bulb went off and I realized that though I had some new personal challenges to deal with, so did the rest of the world. Those experiencing homelessness, single parents, hourly workers, folks with pre-existing health issues, small business owners, basically all of us — this is a global pandemic.
The temptation to give in to anxiety and fear is real but has never created solutions. Those who have historically survived wars, recessions, and plagues tell of people leaning in, people helping each other.
I’ve been following COVID-19 closely since it’s become a pandemic and I want to remind people THIS IS NOT THE END! While we can heed the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to stay away from others who are sick, avoid crowds, and properly wash our hands, I can’t help but think about those living on the street who have no way to bathe or wash their hands. People who may eat, sleep, and congregate so close to each other that social distancing is not possible.
That led me to get involved when I heard Love Beyond Walls was preparing to plant portable handwashing stations around the Atlanta metro area for homeless and displaced people to clean their hands in response to the coronavirus.
Partnering with organizations like Love Beyond Walls is one way we can serve humanity right now. It takes both faith and action to provide real restoration in our communities and world. Jesus washed feet, now we have an opportunity to wash hands and provide that same type of restoration in a modern way.
Fear causes us to act inhumane; it causes us to overlook those in need. Thousands of people are living on the streets with pre-existing health conditions and no access to small things like hand sanitizer. They are at an even higher risk to COVID-19.
Fear makes us think about ourselves, hoard toilet paper and fight in grocery stores. But God is consistent. The same God who parted seas, healed diseases, and gives ingenuity to doctors is still present. That same God who fed the multitude with five loaves of bread and two fish is still here. I have no idea when or where my next check from a concert will come from, but I know I have enough for now.
I imagine there will be great songs, books, and films created in this time of social distancing. Economies may get weaker, but family bonds will grow stronger. This pandemic is an opportunity to see how we can overcome unforeseen trials. We can embrace the humility and humanity it takes to be of service to one another.
I hope we can put a pause on self-seeking, self-interest, and vain pursuits to care deeply for one another and refocus on global solidarity. I believe God will restore the years the locusts have eaten. I believe collective pain makes people love their neighbor as themselves.
In the words of L.R. Knost, “Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So, go love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”
Humanity always recovers, and I am confident we will be restored again. I want to be a part of that solution.